Thank you Hilly Fields parkrun, Janathon, Jantastic

Oh my, Elizabeth Fry!

Today, I really didn’t fancy running. I put my clothes out last night and my beloved put them away thinking I wasn’t running until Tuesday. I got to work and my running colleague, D, said she’ll run tomorrow instead of today. At least she went out running on Saturday, so she’s building up her schedule. Then I was stuck in my big project, letting my mood slip as I’m alone in my office today. I was finding reasons not to go. Put it off to tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the schedule collapses. 

I took a few breaths. Stepped out of my day. Listened to my thoughts. Noticed them. Noticed that they’re thoughts, not facts. 

Some more breaths. Letting the thoughts go. Finding some facts. I’ve got a schedule. I need a break. I’ll feel better afterwards. I can have a slow plod if that’s how I feel. 

I took my phone, started the Endomondo app from the top of our steps, walked the few yards to the street and set off. I was feeling okay. Had to dodge a few people. At a roundabout I had to wait for a car to pass. The driver acknowledged me. Another runner, noticing I had broken my stride? At the building site a chap standing chatting on the pavement stepped out of my way. Through the park. Out of the park, across the zebra at Grove Road. Back into the park. Noticing other runners, walkers and cyclists. Smiling to a few. It feels almost as good as last Thursday, when my colleague S and I hit 8:34 in our first mile, then slowed it a bit out the back. 

The voice of Endomondo calls out the first mile. 8 minutes, 11 seconds. 

8 minutes 11 seconds! I’ve never knowingly hit this pace before. I’m doing the sums, Two miles in 16:22, three miles in 24:33. Plus a bit more to finish off the 5k. My fastest parkrun is 25:07. This is could be the same pace. 

Of course, now I’m on something akin to record pace my body starts complaining. My shins start to feel tight. My mind knows that when I run with colleagues we’re on the track but today I’m on the path. My knees are complaining. Is my shoe lace coming loose? It’s mind games. I’m stronger than this. 

Being Victoria Park, I can see the pub that roughly marks the 2 mile spot. It’s miles away. I settle again. On the far east side of the park. Up ahead are some chaps with leaf blowing machines. Whatever happened to rakes? And a tractor. A 13-plate, I notice as I get close. It’s blue so I assume it’s Ford but it’s not, it’s New Holland. Past the men with their blowers. Past their Ford Transit truck. 

Around the corner. My shoe lace is undone. Bother it. I stop and tie it up, another double knot. Will I lose my time now? I recall my slow start from the steps. I’m doing okay. Sweat in my eyes. Seem to see a lot of women with babies along this stretch. And a chap with a baby. From now on I wonder with each runner if we’ve passed each other already. 

Endomondo woman announces the second mile. Seven minutes thirty seconds. Two miles in 15:41. Oh my, Elizabeth Fry! I’ve gone faster than the first mile! I’m tiring though. I tell myself it’s okay, even if I ran the next mile at 10 minutes a mile it will be respectable. 

The north side of Victoria Park, parallel with Victoria Park Road goes on forever. You just have to keep going. Eventually you get round. Keep going, I tell myself. When I notice my pace falling I encourage myself on. 

Back to Grove Road. Over the zebra. Into the next stretch. The section that we sometimes think is the last but it isn’t. There’s another divider to go. 

At last, the back bend, the furthest west section of the park. I almost get entangled by a dog walker. One with about seven or eight dogs on leads. Round the final big bend. Another runner just ahead of me. I use him to pace myself, he’s going faster than I’d like to be going but I’m nearly home. 

Endomondo woman again. Seven minutes fifty-three. Three miles in 23:34. I’ve never done this before. I pass the runner I was pacing with, sprinting as hard as I can to the gate. But it isn’t over at the gate. I’m fiddling with my pocket as I run, to get my phone out, to open it up, be back at the pause button. It’s a 90-degree corner and onto the bridge. I begin to slow as I’m onto the gate. Remind myself to push. Last few strides. Over the (imaginary) line. I lose a few more seconds fumbling with my phone. 

Finally: 24:27. I’ve done it. I’ve broken my record. Broken? More like smashed it. I look at the time again. I’ve ripped 40 seconds off my best parkrun time. No hills, but still. 

I walk back to the office, triumphant. 

As I walk I’m thinking of my friend David, who demolished my reasons for not running and guided me through my first eight months of running. And it was David who first told me about parkrun. I’m thinking of the my friends Mike, Stefan, Chris and Mark who have all run parkrun with me. I’m thinking of the Hilly Fields parkrun community. And my colleagues who run at lunchtime. I’m thanking the Jantastic crew and the Janathon bloggers. And my mindfulness group. Because it’s good to have goals and it’s great to find old friends and new inspiration. And my beloved and Junior. I’m thanking you all as I walk. 

Finally, I’m thanking me. Because I did it. And I can do it again.

Stats so far today: 6,441 steps. 5.3km run. 


Our London

We have this park near us with a fabulous view of London.

Every time I take Junior up there I show him the panoramic view from the city in the east to battersea power station in the southwest.

At new years eve and fireworks nights hundreds of people gather here. In the summer people gather for picnics. All year round there are joggers and dogs being walked.

And as we stand there, I tell Junior that London belongs to him and every one of the children in London. I tell him it’s his playground. I tell him that London belongs to him. I tell him never to be afraid of claiming his city.

And then we get on with our day.

Jessye days

Today was a Jessye day. You know the ones, you probably have another name for it, or maybe you don’t call it anything.

They’re the days when you do nothing for the whole day, but you do lots of small things. It’s usually a day of rest, of respite and refreshment. A day for getting jobs done.

They’re mongrel days – a bit of everything is in them. But the best mongrel days are special so we named them after the best mongrel I ever knew, Jessye.

Jessye picked my aunt and uncle out when they visited Battersea Dogs Home looking for a pet. They brought her home and she gently became a figure of importance in many people’s lives. She may even have been my first love. She was kind, beautiful and generous. When she died, the mourners were many.

Sharing a tart with friends

Our Jessye day today has been a mixture of jobs, playing in the garden,

Distant view of canary wharf from the allotment

visiting Ever Sunny Park, inspecting our allotment plot, eating and time spent with friends.

Ever Sunny Park

My favourite exercise was kicking a ball about in Ever Sunny Park with Junior and his mother. It’s a slow game but he laughs a lot and it’s the best sound in the world.

Exercise stats: 3,095 steps.

Baby bedtime routine not working? How to get Out of the Woods

They say that’s it’s good to have a bedtime routine for your baby.

A bath, a story and a drink of milk all feature in the various books and websites I’ve seen. Our bedtime routine has all of these things.

But I think we might be unique in the world to have included laughing with Will Cohu in our routine.

It happened by accident, as some of the best things do. Will wrote a book, Out of the Woods. It was first published by Short Books in 2007. There are illustrations by Mungo McCourt. It is about trees.

One day, I decided I would start reading to Junior about trees as he went to bed. I picked Will’s book because its a nice read. I thought Junior might learn a little as I reqd, even if he didn’t really understand.

But it was too dark – the first part of our routine is to switch off the light. As I fumbled with the book the inside back cover opened. And Junior leant forward, pointed at the photo of Will Cohu and laughed. I like to think he was laughing with Will Cohu, not at him.

I love the sound of Junior laughing. So, every night, I get the Will Cohu book out, find his picture and Junior laughs. Then we look at another book before I settle Junior into his cot.

I’ve tried the Mungo McCourt illustrations on Junior but they don’t have the same effect. I’ve not tried pictures of anyone else, I don’t want to risk it not working.

So, if your bedtime routine isn’t working, don’t give up. Try adding a little laughter to the situation. I know just what you can try. I know it wasn’t why he published this book, but Will Cohu might just get you Out of the Woods.

Brockley’s Rock

I love a good fish and chips meal. And I’m blessed that in Brockley we have a great fish and chips takeaway.


The fish is always cooked to order so it’s worth phoning your order in before you set off.

As well as fried fish they sell grilled fish, fish cakes and calamari. It took me over a year, maybe two, to get around to trying the grilled fish. But when I did, I wished I had tried earlier! One day I will get around to trying the calamari. I’ve had a fish cake too, which was good, bit I lo e grilled or fried fish too.

Vegetarians are catered for with a peppery veg cake, which is apparently very good too and far superior to vegetarian offerings in many F&C establishments. They also do a weekly gluten-free night.

The only drawback of brockley’s rock is that when you have fish and chips elsewhere, it is often inferior. Last year, on holiday in Norfolk, despite following recommendations, the F&C wasn’t up to our local standards.

Last night I had the fried plaice, chips, mushy peas and curry sauce, which goes very well with the chips. Now that Junior is eating fish, I now get to share my fish portion with him. It looks like he’s getting into it as much as his father.

Every step you take

I’ve walked 4,905 steps today, according to the moves app. How accurate this is, I don’t know for sure.

Thanks to having the app I know now that from office doorstep to station platform is 1,455 steps. And the day I counted every one of my steps to discover this, the app added around 1,100 steps to my total. I think the difference may be because the app map of my route cuts off quite a lot of corners. Or maybe my six feet six person with size 13 shoes takes smaller steps than the average app step. That seems highly implausible.

On Monday I counted my steps including my diversion into sainsbury’s to buy some bread – a 1,900 step journey.

A wet Bethnal Green morning

Father, Quaker, communicator, fundraiser and networker